Faking It

Bird Watching, (Dark Eyed Junco), 2003. By Paula McCartney

Most wildlife photographers are highly specialised. Many spend many hours painstakingly finding the right spot to photograph in, researching the animal's habits and constructing elaborate hides to disguise themselves, even sometimes using remote triggers and timers because their human presence is a threat to the animal. Not so Paula McCartney. She avoids the whole process and just places fake birds on the branches.

She claims that 'Rather than settling for what nature has to offer, I have taken control and adorned the trees with their longed for, but absent, tenants.'

Now I'm not a wildlife photographer (aside from the occasional piece of roadkill) but if I were I would probably take offence at the above comment. I know wildlife in general is in decline but this just smacks of laziness to me. I see plenty of birds on trees. Even in cities I occasionally spot birds other than pigeons or starlings. I just don't really think the philosophy behind the images holds up. But then I think the same about much of what appears in the Art World these days. Plenty of people seem to disagree though. Paula McCartney is a recipient of several awards including this years McKnight Artist Fellowships for Photographers ($25 000 - thankyou very much!) and has photographs in MOMA's collection in New York and many other galleries.

So I'm off to my local taxidermist... $25 000 here I come...


e_a said...

a more complete statement here:

e_a said...

er, Blogger wants to cut off the address.

Either way. I'd be curious what others think after reading her proposal. Not what I was expecting, which is great, but I'm not sure I buy it.

Tom White said...

The two excerpts from the statement are very telling in my mind.

"Walking along, I would stop to look at the birds, but was always frustrated by the fact that they would be too far away, or moving about too quickly. I was interested in photographing them, but they would never land in an appropriate composition."

Which is why wildlife photography takes a little more effort than strolling through the leaf litter with a camera slung over your shoulder.

"My work explores how nature and fabricated elements can combine to create a scene that questions what is natural, and whether being so holds any intrinsic importance."

I have a quick answer to that one.

Café Voltaire said...

"My work explores the question of..." I more and more think is the photographic euphemism for "my concept is a bit murky." Her lack of patience for the natural world sort of undermines the "exploration" a bit. Like saying you love the outdoors but would rather watch it on an IMAX screen than go for a hike; just give me the highlight reel.

In some ways I like her concept. That she buys her own "nature" so that she doesn't have to wait for the real thing. They build indoor "mountain ranges" and little Swiss villages so the superrich can ski in Dubai. I guess the work itself doesn't tell me that she's far enough from that set of priorities to make her "exploration" remotely convincing for me.